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Thursday, 18 September 2014

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Sale of iconic Cumbrian mountain Blencathra still shrouded in mystery

Blencathra has a new owner – and it’s not the community campaigners who battled to keep it in Cumbrian hands.

Debbie Cosgrove photo
Debbie Cosgrove

No details have so far been revealed about the new owner of the iconic Lakeland mountain, also known as Saddleback.

But it’s not the Friends of Blencathra group which has been behind a high-profile campaign to raise the cash needed to buy the peak.

They last night said they were “bemused” by the sale announcement, claiming they had been in talks with agents to say they could match the winning bid, details of which have not been disclosed.

Lord Lonsdale put Blencathra up for sale – with a guide price of £1.75m – to help pay an inheritance tax bill he’s been landed with since the death of his father.

The sale has attracted international interest, with a number of bids tabled for a sealed auction which closed on Wednesday.

Confirmation of a sale came much quicker than expected and as a bitter blow to those who were fighting hard to bring the Blencathra into community control.

Carlisle-based H&H Land and Property, who were handling the sale for Lonsdale Settled Estate, revealed the winning offer exceeded the guide price.

Director John Robson said solicitors had been instructed to go ahead with the sale, which he expects to he completed “reasonably quickly”

He said: “The duty of the estate is to accept best value and we are instructed to proceed with a sale based on this offer from an as yet unnamed party.”

Mr Robson said there had been talks yesterday with the Friends of Blencathra.

“We have taken into account both their offer and the fact that there is a significant shortfall between this, and the successful offer,” he added.

Debbie Cosgrove, chairman of Friends of Blencathra, said the sale announcement came as a shock, with their team having been in negotiations with Lord Lonsdale’s representatives throughout yesterday.

“We told them we could match the price,” she told the News & Star. “We’re totally confused and more than a little disappointed.

“We’re bemused – not angry. We told them we could go away and match the offer.”

The Friends say they were confident they could match the winning bid because of the support of a major benefactor, along with the money they raised ahead of their initial offer being tabled.

That, it is understood, was accompanied by a proposal detailing the group’s financial plans and stating they wanted a chance to talk with Lord Lonsdale’s agents in further detail to reach a deal.

Ms Cosgrove, of Allerby, said: “We wanted to make sure that, because we’re a registered charity, we were not paying above market value. That’s the law for a charity.”

And on the new owner, she added: “There’s always the option that they may have bought it and intend to donate it to us. We just don’t know.”

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